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THE ALIEN FACTOR (1977)
Director: Don Dohler
Retromedia Entertainment

In the late 1970s, I eagerly anticipated the release of THE ALIEN FACTOR, having read about it in Famous Monsters magazine. I scanned the theater listings in the newspapers for at a few months so I would not miss it. It never showed up at the theaters, at least in Tulsa, but it did show up on television, less than a year later. Ignore the inaccurate reporting of those who say this film was "shelved for years" before being a direct to TV/Video release. This little gem has been stupefying the masses since at least 1979.

This film is entertaining in an EQUINOX kind of way. Low budget but high ambition.

Alien creatures being transported for research on another planet crashes near a small Pennsylvania town. Three aliens escape, and go about slaughtering the drunken, slow moving citizens to a pulsating Space Invaders-esqe (bawmp BAWMP bawmp BAWMP) soundtrack. Another alien appears on the scene and dons a lounge lizard disguise and the name Zachary to track down and kill the alien pests. Zachary always arrives just in time to stop the marauding invaders, with the help of the town's more "sober" citizens.

Interesting to note: all of the victims are male! A first in a normally misogynist genre.

The alien designs are fair to good, the best being the Zagatile, which must stand at least seven feet tall. It reminded me of the yeti-like alien from INVASION OF THE ANIMAL PEOPLE. With its simian face, mandibles and fur covered body, its an original and well executed concept. The first alien to meet its demise, the Inferbryce, is a cockroach looking creature that is defeated using sound waves to "crack its shell." Unfortunately, the film stock and lighting are poor, so you really cannot make out many details of this alien. The Leemoid, the final alien is kept invisible until the end. Its scenes are fair to poor, as you can clearly see the table the model is on a couple of times when it is superimposed over the live action scenes. Every review I have read on this film always forgets the other two aliens, the pilot of the crashed space ship and Zachary's true form. The pilot looks like a Morlock from THE TIME MACHINE in a jumpsuit. Zachary in alien form, looks like a combination of a mummy and the swamp thing, with two LED eyes and bed hair. The scariest thing about THE ALIEN FACTOR is the road band featured in the middle of the movie. Their talent challenged wailing in the town tavern epitomizes why I'm glad the 70s are over.

This DVD has found its way to my favorites list very quickly. The quality of the print used is probably the best source available, and is fair to good. Some interior scenes in the film itself were not very well lit, and the DVD does not make up for this much. The incredible thing about this DVD is the "cutting room floor" footage of the Leemoid (the stop motion animated alien) that the producers decided to scrap and replace with a whole new creature. Funny, I thought the original Leemoid was better executed than the second one. But the second Leemoid is a better design. There is also a blooper reel and some still slide shows of behind the scenes and the "George Stover" gallery(?). The audio is very good, but there is still some crackle in the background.

I am looking forward to buying more Retromedia releases. The function screens are attractive and easy to navigate. You can tell when a company has some sort of affection for the source material, and it shows in this release. You get a lot more in this DVD in the way of extras than you would find in an MGM release. The film itself is presented in full-screen.

This release has the "Bikini Drive-in" intro which could upset parents (and some wives), as it contains brief nudity and Fred Olen Ray holding a liquor flask and suggesting that you should be "half in the bag" to watch this film. You can however bypass the intro in the scene selection screen. THE ALIEN FACTOR is for the most part kid safe. There are some inept gore scenes (monster claws smearing blood on victims) and numerous victims who had too much to drink, but nothing even approaching what kids could see on "The X Files." I highly recommend this feature rich release of THE ALIEN FACTOR to anyone who has flexible expectations for their sci-fi/horror entertainment dollar. (Mark Suggs)

 

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